Thursday, March 26, 2009

Lutherans in North Dakota Brace for Record Floods

Lutherans in North Dakota Brace for Record Floods

CHICAGO (ELCA) -- As residents in North Dakota rush to
prepare for record-breaking floods, Lutherans there are doing
what they can to protect rural and urban communities.
According to the National Weather Service, many rivers
in the state are at flood stage. The Red River is predicted
to crest at a record 41 feet by March 28. The river flows
north through eastern portions of North Dakota and western
Bonnie Turner, Lutheran Disaster Response (LDR) coordinator
for North Dakota, spent March 24-25 traveling by car along the
Red River between Wahpeton, N.D., and Fargo, N.D. LDR is a
collaborative ministry of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in
America (ELCA) and the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.
Turner started her journey in Wahpeton, "the first area to
report cresting," she said. "We saw many homes surrounded by
water and residents working to save their homes and communities."
"As we drove north, the fields were like oceans. There is
water as far as the eye can see," Turner said.
In addition to the eastern part of North Dakota, there is
widespread flooding in the central and western part of the state.
The state has declared 32 counties and two tribal nation
reservations as disaster areas, reported Turner. "No travel is
advised across the state," she said.
Turner said she'll be working to gather pastors to provide
spiritual care for people affected by the flooding, as well as
volunteer teams to help with cleanup.
The Rev. Lawrence R. Wohlrabe, bishop, ELCA Northwestern
Minnesota Synod, Moorhead, said the work of sandbaggers is
"We are keenly aware of the work of college students,
particularly at Concordia College," he said. Concordia College,
Moorhead, Minn., is one of 28 ELCA colleges and universities.
Concordia cancelled classes March 24-27 to allow students,
staff and others to participate in flood control efforts. The
college's dining service is providing meals for flood fighters.
"It's an anxious time for all people," Wolhrabe said, adding
that synod staff is working to care for congregations,
communities and people.
The Rev. Mark E. Narum, bishop, ELCA Western North Dakota
Synod, Bismarck, reported that 1,700 people have evacuated the
region. A recent snowstorm "has created a major mess,
particularly in areas dealing with flooding," he said. "We are
hugely unprepared, with emergency sandbagging."
Narum said it's important to understand that there are two
separate events happening in North Dakota. "One is the flooding
and second are ice jams, which are predominant across the
state," he said. "The ice jams on the Missouri River are causing
unexpected concerns."
Narum said meals are being served to people displaced from
their homes and emergency workers by members of Good Shepherd
Lutheran Church, Bismarck, Trinity Lutheran Church, Bismarck,
and First Lutheran Church, Mandan, N.D.
In 1997, Grand Forks, N.D., was the hardest hit with floods,
said the Rev. William E. Rindy, bishop, ELCA Eastern North Dakota
Synod, Fargo. "What's happening now is radically different,"
he said. "We're experiencing over land flooding in areas away
from rivers, particularly in places that were not targeted to be
"I'm impressed by how local Lutherans have stepped up to
help their neighbors," said the Rev. Kevin A. Massey, LDR
director. LDR coordinators are "sharing information with local
Lutherans on how to prepare their homes, churches and
communities against the threat of flood," Massey said, adding
that LDR will help to coordinate volunteer teams for cleanup.
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Information about Lutheran Disaster Response is at on the Web.

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